Nii Tagoe’s Afro Funk Crew 1999-2009
Nii started the group as he felt that he wanted to reach a different audience and expand his own repertoire from the traditional side of drumming and dance. African rhythms drove the music but Nii felt that traditional melodies could be rendered in different ways on different instruments for which they were originally written.
The band featured heavy bass guitar alongside keyboard, balafon, percussion and flute.
It’s a sound which Nii is returning to to a degree with his new band (which plays some of the Afro Funk Crew material), but with brass and violin, reflecting more of Nii’s eclectic musical journey.
Members of the band included Afla Sackey, Alfred Bannerman and Sam Djengue.
African Headcharge 1996-2005
African Headcharge had been going since the early 1980’s, legends of UK experimental dub music on Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sounds label. Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah saw Nii drumming with Frititi, and approached him to come and play percussion with the live manifestation of the band. He was invited to join them on a European tour which he agreed to, only if he could take his then Frititi member Richmond Kessie (who went on to form Yabba Funk) along.
Nii was part of the line up for several years, his highlight being the 2005 tour of Japan where he also guested with Asian Dub Foundation who were on the tour with African Headcharge.
Nii played on the 2005 ‘In Charge – Live in Japan’, and 1995 ‘Akwaaba’ albums.
Baka Beyond 1996-2011
Baka Beyond were the original multi national Afro Celtic band, initially inspired by the music of the Baka people of the Cameroon rainforest.
Martin Craddick African inspired guitarist, and Su Hart who specialises in Celtic song and Baka yelli, were the founder members. They were introduced to Nii by a mutual friend when they wanted some “African drummers” to play on the ‘Journey Between’ album, which Nii’s students then went on to do.
To begin with more ambient, with Nii’s African rhythms the sound developed. They fused reels on the violin courtesy of Paddy le Mercier, and subsequently multi faceted kit drummer Tim Robinson. At one of the gigs Nii was introduced to a young Seckou Keita who then went on to be part of the line up – sometimes on kora, but also alternating with Nii on kit drum.
Nii, Martin and seckou also formed a side project for one album – Ete meaning “the three of us” in Ga.
In 2009 he began playing balafon, kit, percussion and singing with Baka 5, alongside Molara (Zion Train), Kibisingo Douglas (Kanda Bongo Man), Martin and Su.
Nii wrote tracks for the ‘East to West’ and ‘Sogo’ albums.
Lorraine Ayensu 2007-2010
Lorraine Ayensu was a singer songwriter of Ghanaian and English descent, influenced by British, African, Latin and American music.
She started out as backing vocalist for former Black Roots frontman Delroy Ogilvie, and Congolese Master Drummer Koko Kanyinda Mukala in the mid 90s, before going on to perform her own music in solo, trio and full band format, with Nii on percussion and backing vocals.
Introduced to Nii by drummer Tim Robinson, she repeatedly asked Nii to join the band until he eventually agreed! She went on to become like a sister to Nii.
Steeped in African, Caribbean, Latin and American influences as well as jazz, with meaningful lyrics at the forefront, it was described as “new world music from a global musician who respects her roots”.
Lorraine’s album recordings include ‘Remembering’ and ‘Last Conversation’.
May she rest in peace.